Busta Rhymes possesses one of the most recognizable vocal timbres in rap music. His West Indian-tinged lyrical flow, psychedelic garb, and endearing rambunctiousness helped turn Rhymes into a rap superhero, an urban warrior straight out of the P-Funk tradition.
The son of Jamaican immigrant, Seventh-Day Adventist parents, Rhymes got his start with the Leaders of the New School, whose debut, A Future Without a Past… (#53 R&B, 1991), received some critical acclaim, especially when the boyish anthem "Case of the P.T.A." became popular on the radio and Yo! MTV Raps. Rhymes' appearance on 1992's "Scenario" (#57 pop, #42 R&B), a collaborative effort between A Tribe Called Quest and the Leaders of the New School, garnered more praise from fans and critics, motivating Rhymes to go solo. But he stayed on board for the group's second and final album, T.I.M.E: The Inner Mind's Eye —The Endless Dispute With Reality (#66 pop, #15 R&B, 1993).
Though professionally prospering, Rhymes suffered personal tragedy in 1992 when his son was born prematurely and died. This loss seemed to haunt Rhymes' music —each of his four albums mix murky prophesies of the apocalypse with bass-bumping party jams. The Coming (#6 pop, #1 R&B, 1996), Rhymes' highly anticipated solo effort, turned the Brooklyn native into an instant hip-hop luminary. "Woo Hah!! Got You All in Check" (#8 pop, #6 R&B, 1996) and "It's a Party" (#52 pop, #27 R&B, 1996) became club staples, and Rhymes soon began touring with such acts as De La Soul and Puff Daddy and the Family. When Disaster Strikes… (#3 pop, #1 R&B, 1997), E.L.E. (#12 pop, #2 R&B, 1999), and Anarchy (#4 poop, #1 R&B, 2000), bound together by the Armageddon motif, yielded hits like "Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See" (#2 R&B, 1997), "Dangerous" (#9 pop, #4 R&B, 1998), "Turn It Up [Remix]/Fire It Up" (#10 pop, #7 R&B, 1998), and "What's It Gonna Be?!" (#3 pop, #1 R&B, 1999). Rhymes also made cameo appearances on a number of other artists' 90s hip-hop records.
Tutored by renowned video director Hype Williams, Rhymes codirected or directed many of his own videos, always adding his kaleidoscopic Afrocentricism. As an actor, Rhymes has appeaered in a couple of John Singleton films: 1995's Higher Learning, which also featured rapper Ice Cube, and the 2000 remake of Shaft.
This biography originally appeared in The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (Simon & Schuster, 2001).
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